Tag Archives: movies

Karate Kid

We went to see Karate Kid on Monday night.

It was better than the original in every way imaginable. It was way more believable. Jaden Smith is a better actor than everyone in the original put together, and was absolutely believable. And Jackie Chan was not only Jackie Chan, with all the humor and brilliant martial arts that implies, but he was also a completely convincing sad, lonely old man.

We laughed. We cried. We cheered. We gasped. We cowered. It was pretty much brilliant in every way.

And the change of setting made the premise all that much better. In the original, a New Jersey kid is displaced to California, which, while disrupting, isn’t exactly the end of the world. This was the end of the world. An african-american kid from Detroit is suddenly in Beijing, and so completely out of his element that everything, even turning on the hot water, is an insurmountable hurdle. Most of us can relate to this displacement at some level – if not to that extreme – and we felt each moment with him.

Now, if you’ve seen the preview, you’ve seen most of the best *action* moments, and if you’ve seen the original there will be no plot surprises. But you should go see this, and you should take your kids. It’s the best movie I’ve seen in a very long time, and was even worth the exorbitant bill at the Movie Tavern.

Did I mention that Jaden Smith is an amazing actor? This kid has a brilliant career ahead of him. Let’s hope he doesn’t go the way of so many other spoiled child stars.

Movie recommendations

The last two movies that have come from our Blockbuster account have conclusively proved that we would be better off ignoring the well-meaning movie recommendations of our friends.

The first of the two was “Lady In The Water”, which was dreadful, inexplicable, and tedious. But then, last night, we saw “Sideways”, which was a trainwreck almost from the first. We eventually turned it off when it degenerated into pornography. The conversations about wine were interesting, but incongruous in a story that was almost entirely about fornication and adultery.

So, we’ve gone through our Blockbuster list again, and dropped all the movies from it that folks have recommended, that we haven’t ourselves seen previews. There’s only so much time in life, and it’s a shame to waste it watching trash.


We tried to watch Ponette this evening, but, finally, about 45 minutes in, we turned it off. We simply couldn’t do it. It was just dreadful. It had nothing to recommend it – not plot, or action, or characters. The plot moves like a volkswagen bug in 18 inches of mud. And that’s being generous.

I mention all of this so that, if you’re the person that recommended it to me, you can pretend it was someone else. ‘Cause otherwise, I’m never taking your movie advice again. Ever. Mmkay?

Classic movies

I’ve been watching a number of classic movies lately.

Due to a … ahem … slight clerical oversight, a few years ago, I get an absurd number of cable channels for the ultra-sub-basic price. Attempts to correct this oversight have been met with “What? Are you crazy?!” kinds of responses, do I eventually gave up.

Anyways, two of the channels I get, and just about the only ones I watch, are AMC, where they show classic movies, and USA (or is it TNT? I never can remember), where they show classic-but-newer movies.

So over the last few weeks I’ve watched “Rebel Without a Cause”, and “Cool Hand Luke”, both of them for the first time.

Rebel was fascinating – a rebel movie set in a time when rebellion meant rather different things than it does now. I feel like I need to see it again, as I didn’t really grasp what it was about. I think that in a time when we’re used to much higher body count, and the rebel/hero is almost a cliché, it’s hard to recognize the profound bits, even when you’re aware that you’re missing them.

Cool Hand Luke was a lot of fun. Luke was entertaining in a strange sort of way. Another rebel/hero, bored with life, being destructive because there just wasn’t anything interesting going on.

And, of course, I finally heard the original of that phrase that is part of our language and culture – “What we have here is a failure to communicate”. There are a lot of these phrases that folks say that are from movies that I’ve never seen – one of the side effects of growing up an expatriate. That, and all of Saturday Night Live, I suppose.

The big difference with these two movies was just that they were interesting and enjoyable and just good stories, whereas so many of the “you’ve got to see this” movies that I’ve put in my Blockbuster movie queue have ended up being a waste of time and postage. Well, you win some, you lose some.

Napoleon Dynamite

Occasionally I watch a movie so that I can have some context for the movies that folks say they’ve been watching. So it was, with amazingly low expectations, that I rented and watched Napoleon Dynamite. My expectations dipped even lower when I saw that it was an MTV production. I figured I would be satisfied if there was even a hint of plot or humor.

It appears that my expectations were *far* too high.

I’m completely unable to guess why this movie was such a hit.

On the bright side it had Lazlo Hollyfeld in it.

About Schmidt

Last night I watched About Schmidt, which was, I believe, the most depressing movie I’ve ever seen. For some reason, I thought it was a comedy. IMDB says it’s a comedy. This is a lie. The movie is depressing, from the minute it starts. If you’ve ever wondered if your life was worthwhile, if you make a difference, if the world will be any better because of you … don’t see this movie.

I’m really quite unable to think how anybody found it even remotely funny. Perhaps one has to be young cruel.

Soylent Green

Finally saw Soylent Green this evening. I was disappointed, to say the least. It could be because I knew the ending, I dunno. I found the whole premise impossible to swallow (no pun intended), and everything about the plot development was contrived and shallow.

Sure, global warming, destroying the environment, and all that, but I can’t quite figure why anyone would find this movie particularly thought-provoking. I found it yawn-provoking, and more than a little hard to endure through to the end.


A while back, Tim posted a few articles about the theme of salvation in movies. An interesting idea. I responded that there were certain movies, such as Unforgiven, which were not about salvation at all, and that’s what makes them so interesting.

Well, I just watched Unforgiven again, and remembered why I thought, when I saw it the first time, it was such an amazingly good movie. And, yes, of course it’s all about salvation, but not really in normal ways. A pair of old killers, and a young killer, set out to kill some no-good low-down cowboys. Will, played by Clint Eastwood, spends most of the story insisting that he ain’t like that no more. And the kid spends most of the story insisting that he’s just as hard and unfeeling as Will was in the old days. Ned isn’t really sure that he wants to go along, but does, for his friend, and for old times’ sake.

I’ve always been a big fan of Eastwood’s “spaghetti westerns”, and this movie is, in a sense, a commentary on those movies, the values that they espouse, and the possibility of redemption. This is truly a great movie, and highly recommended. Not at all a traditional shoot-em-up western, but enough of that scattered around for those that like that sort of thing. It’s a western that makes you think, if you can believe that.

The Third Miracle

Last night I saw The Third Miracle. I don’t remember who recommended it to me. It was deeply thought provoking.

It’s a story of the official process the Church goes through to acknowledge someone as a saint, which includes identifying three miracles. The process is led by a priest who deeply wants it to all be true, but who has had his faith shaken by leading this process before. Meanwhile, he must also struggle with his feelings for the daughter of the proposed saint. As always, the life of a saint is not so much about the amazing things they do, but about the way that they touch the lives of others, often long after their death.

Highly recommended. Stars Ed Wood as priest Frank Shore.

Movie reviews

I recently signed up for the blockbuster.com movie-by-mail service. There were some movies I wanted to see, and some that had been recommended, and this seemed like a very cost-effective way to do that. So I’ve seen more movies in the last month than I’ve seen in the previous 6 months, probably.

Three of them stand out as worth mentioning.

First of all, Pulp Fiction. No, I hadn’t seen it yet. But a number of people, horrified that I hadn’t seen it, said that I absolutely had to. There was very little mention of what it was about, or why it was important that I see it. In retrospect, it seems obvious why that was the case. It’s not about anything. And there’s no reason for someone to waste their time seeing it. I was really very disappointed, since I had really expected that it would be good. But the title is appropriate. It has all the quality of a dime-store novel. I have to think that if less known, but equally talented actors had been in it, it wouldn’t have done so well. I honestly can’t understand why it was, and is, so popular.

On the brighter side, there was Babette’s Feast and Brother Sun, Sister Moon. Babette’s Feast is about a feast. It’s also about love, forgiveness, and community. It’s from a short story by Isaak Denisen (aka Karen Blixen), and was well worth the price of admission. Sorry, no guns, explosions, or blood. Brother Sun, Sister Moon is about the life of Francis of Assisi, and co-stars Alec Guinness as the pope. Ok, so it’s a really minor part, but it was an interesting ending. Also worth seeing, if you’re interested in Francis, as I am, is Francesco.

With the movies-by-mail service, I also get a coupon for one free rental in-store every week. Apparently when I go into a store and choose something spontaneously, I choose much less carefully then when I select my list online.